I don't mind the cold, dark, wet nights. I'm not ashamed to admit that I adore those long evenings in the shed with the radio on. I find the smell of balsa dust and machine oil very comforting. I'm definitely in 'winter project mode' at the moment, though I keep the trusty winter hack charged up just in case. I've cleared the benches, topped up the wood rack and accessory stocks and am truly getting stuck in. The key to shedly happiness is in avoiding 'treadmill syndrome' and not giving yourself too many projects to achieve over the winter building season. This means that, yet again, some of my cherished projects may not get started this winter. Oh well, que sera.
On a practical level, I find that catching up on repairs and refurbs is a good way to break back into workshop mode after the predominance of summer flying. ARTFs are great, but when they break I'm reluctant to repair them. I tend to set them aside and decide their fate over the winter. Following careful examination, those that are forlorn hopes get thrown in the bin, whilst those that can be economically repaired are kept for winter refurbishment. Any that are slightly damaged, cosmetically imperfect, or just have a few loose fittings but that I’m fed up with, get given away. If it's a kit build or an own design I never throw it away, no matter how hopeless it is.

When I first get back down to proper building I find my accuracy of cutting, fitting and sanding leaves a little to be desired, so I start on those less demanding 'screwdriver assembly' type jobs first. For example, I've been meaning to re-engine my Blackburn Monoplane with a new four-stroke for some while now, and I've also been looking to put some new servos in a couple of old favourites. I'll do those sorts of things before, say, moving on to knocking up a tin tank for a scale job I've got on the go. I then hope to move on to 'proper' bench work by putting the finishing touches to the structure of a simple own-design sportster I've been working on for far too long.

Only when I'm properly spooled up will I go for the main event, the winter project (for this year read winter projects, plural!) I'm returning to an own-design pusher scale job I started a good while ago but neglected whilst building a home-brew glow engine. In addition to this I'm designing and building a simple 'tween the wars Nazi airliner from scratch. If there's time and energy left, I also intend to build at least one of my growing stock of simple, classic R/C kits. That's the plan, anyway!

I really should write a book entitled Versatile Modelling Uses For The Forty Quid Drill. I love mine. If you own such a cheap and cheerful pedestal drill you might have missed the convenience and versatility of fitting a drum sander. When mates come to my shed it amazes me how many have never seen such an appliance before. Drum sanders just go in the chuck like a normal drill bit and are surprisingly swift at removing balsa and ply; I've used them on aluminium, too. You can even spin them in a pistol drill. The rubber drums can be fitted with sanding sleeves of various grades, to suit the required material and finish. You just slip on new sleeves when the first one gets worn, or if you're working down the grades to a finer finish. Drum sanders are very convenient for profiling jobs. Since they're quite deep, with practice you can sand a whole stack of balsa components all at once. The smaller drums are great for sanding inside hollow ply fuselage formers, where you can get a nice, neat radius. They're also good for gently opening out existing firewall tank holes and the like. They come in a good number of sizes so you can usually match the radius of the sander to the job in hand. A drum sander is a tool that, once you’ve used, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without. At a recent model engineering show I saw a boxed set from Warco for the princely sum of just £7! If you hunt about you can usually find them on market tool stalls, or at winter indoor modelling shows.

We're well into the swapmeet season now, and I just love it. I seem to be reliving my youth at swapmeets by re-buying old R/C stuff that I've previously either lost, given away in error, or wished I'd never swapped. The Blonde Person points out that this means dragging home yet more guilty treasures to an already over-packed shed... Fair comment. My haul at the last few swapmeets has included some real offbeat treasures that only a true anorak could love:

1. A boxed, as new, 4-channel 27MHz AM MacGregor radio set. A British classic in a blue tin.
2. A tiny Shinwa touch tachy.
3. Old diesel engines.
4. Unbuilt traditional kits.

Mind you, I am learning to resist temptation. Although not an old classic, I resisted buying my eighth (!) O.S. 15LA at our recent Delyn swapmeet. I just lurve those blueys!

Besides all this bargain hunting, swapmeets are also great social occasions in my neck of the woods, providing winter get-togethers and probably as much chatting as swapping. Make sure you get to at least one this season, but visit the cash dispenser first. It'll recharge your mental modelling batteries.

  • Winter Glues was first published as Whittaker in Winter in the December 2006 issue of RCM&E.